Building character at tertiary level

Rising global competition and the changing socio-political landscape require strong individuals. “Book” education alone will no longer suffice in building people with good character and values:

THE Higher Education Ministry (MOHE) places great focus and expectations on the character development of graduates. It needs to develop many more graduates who not only possess knowledge but a good character. They need to have a good foundation in character development in the four years of their tertiary education.

This is part of the ministry’s initiative in the development of quality and well-balanced human capital. This said, the responsibility of developing one’s character lies with the individual.

Within the purview of the university, the ministry will ensure that the focus on students’ character building and development, and on the quality of education are given equal importance. In the final analysis, a person’s character is more important than his intellect.

The aim of higher education, however, is to produce graduates who possess high intellect, who are knowledgeable, competitive and competent as well as able to put into practice the knowledge gained. But knowledge is of no use, if reasoning power and wisdom are lacking.

Personalities can open doors, but it is character that will ultimately keep those doors open for a long time.

It is this character that institutions of higher learning must instil in our students.

Graduates must be innovative but this must be accompanied by high cognitive skills (the ability to be analytical and critical, to solve problems and to reason). They must be able to communicate with clarity and confidence. Part of the strength of a person’s character is evident in how his point of view, stand, and reasoning are articulated.

Multilingual graduates, who are able to communicate effectively and are technology-savvy, when complemented with good values and character, will form the nation’s invaluable human assets.

In facing the challenges of the 21st century, the Government is working hard to turn Malaysia into a developed nation. With rising global competition and the changing socio-political landscape, the call for strong individuals to face this increasingly demanding world is essential.

“Book” education alone will no longer suffice in building successful people. We must instil good values in our students. This is necessary if Malaysia is to realise the vision of the New Economic Model, the Government Transformation Programme as well as the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015).

Accordingly, higher education institutions (HEIs) must play a vital role to produce academics, intellectuals, scholars as well as skilled and semi-skilled workers who can contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.

Focusing on students’ holistic development will enable them to develop critical soft skills attributes as listed in the Generic Skills Attribute (GSA) module.

The GSA module, implemented recently in HEIs throughout the country, constitutes seven important elements – communication skills, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, team work, effective communication and information management, entrepreneurial skills, ethical and profession skills, as well as leadership quality.

The students we develop in our HEIs, will have an impact on the success of the nation.The focus on students’ holistic development curriculum is intended to result in:

> Human capital with first class mentality. This includes one’s ability to use knowledge in a proactive, creative, and innovative way. They will have technical skills and management competence to handle changes in the global environment to upgrade the quality of life and contribute to the harmony and wealth of the nation and the rest of the world.

> Knowledge, ideas, creativity and innovation from research to form the platform for the advancement and growth of the nation and global society; and

> The fusion of multiple strengths that will fortify unity, national identity, social justice, and peace for the nation and the global society.

The higher education system therefore aims to consolidate a community of learners to help create a society with integrity and a strong sense of identity.

Our higher education system has worked towards the strengthening of the learning and teaching that takes place in HEIs through continuous upgrading of the curriculum and intervention programmes. In addition, industry-focused research activities are on the increase to meet the needs of the market.

Our research and undergraduate programmes must focus on market needs. Universities must thus offer innovative and creative platforms, and programmes and exposure that will facilitate and result in increasing our students’ global outlook.

But in their quest to pursue the hard sciences, HEIs must not forget the fundamentals that lie in the development of soft skills.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the building of one’s character begins from young, the challenge of HEIs today is to provide the space and platform for our students to develop holistically.

It is vital that we provide them with the necessary tools to help them make the best of life’s choices, for the choices they make will ultimately affect the nation.

by Datuk Dr. Zulkefli Hassan,

Higher Education Ministry secretary-general.

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